Why we set up a Global Seminar on Contests & Conflict

Scientific seminar series and conference activities have come to a standstill worldwide, due to the pandemic. A vacuum has been formed and we miss the intellectual exchange of ideas about research. To fill this vacuum and to give all researchers interested in contests and the theory of conflict the opportunity to stay in touch, we need a platform. The Global Seminar can be the appropriate format for this, not only for individual regions but for the whole world. Perhaps other communication formats will develop over time in connection with this platform. But we will start with a series of presentations every two weeks, moving west about eight time zones each week, with the local coordinator inviting, introducing and leading the discussion.

 

Who we are

The Global Seminar is founded and supported by seven people who work at different academic universities around the world:

Subhasish
Chowdhury
Qiang
Fu
Kai A.
Konrad
Dan
Kovenock
Tracy Xiao
Liu
Lionel
Page
Iryna
Topolyan

 

What we do

What unites the members of this group is that they are intrigued by the study of processes in which individuals or groups compete for scarce and valuable resources, making costly efforts themselves and sacrificing them, whether or not they end up winning the resources. Such processes can be found in many and very different areas of life. To name just a few examples: sporting or professional tournaments, prize competitions, election campaigns, military conflicts, court cases or patent races.

 

Register

Sign up to the Global Network to get information and invitations about the "Global Seminar on Contests & Conflict" and other related upcoming events as well as information and event invitations of the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.

 

Current Events

06/30/2021 | Testing Conflict Theory in the Field: A Field Experiment in Swimming Pools
Contests & Conflict | 06/30/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Roman M. Sheremeta

Roman M. Sheremeta will present his paper titled "Testing Conflict Theory in the Field: A Field Experiment in Swimming Pools" (joint work with Loukas Balafoutas and Marco Faravelli).

Abstract of the paper:
We conduct a natural field experiment on conflict in swimming pools. When all lanes are occupied, one of our confederates joins a randomly selected lane and asks one of the swimmers to move to another lane. The lane represents a contested club good. We vary the confederates’ valuation (high and low) for the good through the message they deliver. Also, we take advantage of the natural variation in the number of swimmers and their speed to proxy for the swimmers’ valuation of the good. Consistent with the theory of contests, swimmers react strategically: (1) the higher the confederate’s valuation, the more likely the swimmer is to leave the lane; (2) the higher the swimmer’s own valuation, the less likely they are to leave; (3) the higher the opportunity cost of moving, the less likely the swimmer is to leave.

Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury, Co-Chair: Kai A. Konrad

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
07/14/2021 | How do Alliances Grow and Conflict Ensue? An Experiment on Conflict Network Formation
Contests & Conflict | 07/14/2021 | Full-time

Speaker: Jie Zheng

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de

 

Past events

06/16/2021 | To fight or to give up? Dynamic contests with a deadline
Contests & Conflict | 06/16/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Dmitry Ryvkin

Date & Time: Cincinnati (12 pm), Los Angeles (9 am), Bath (5 pm), Munich (6 pm), Singapore (June 17, 12 am), Beijing (June 17, 12 am) and Sydney (June 17, 2 am)

Dmitry Ryvkin will present his paper titled "To fight or to give up? Dynamic contests with a deadline".

Abstract of the paper:
Abstract: We study dynamic contests between two players whose performance is determined jointly by effort and luck. The players observe each other's positions in real time. There is a fixed deadline, and the player with a higher performance at the deadline wins the contest. We fully characterize the Markov perfect equilibrium for heterogeneous players. Effort is high when the players are tied but collapses quickly when one of them assumes a lead, due to a dynamic momentum effect. Therefore, total expected effort does not necessarily increase in the prize or in the players' abilities. We discuss implications for contest design and propose splitting the contest to cool off competition, and introducing heterogeneous players with optimal head-starts, as possible solutions.

Chair: Dan Kovenock, Co-Chair: Iryna Topolyan

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
06/02/2021 | Fighting for Lemons: The Encouragement Effect in Dynamic Competition with Private Information
Contests & Conflict | 06/02/2021 | 04:30 PM

Speaker: Marc Möller

Marc Möller will present his paper titled "Fighting for Lemons: The Encouragement Effect in Dynamic Competition with Private Information" (joint work with Juan Beccuti).

Abstract of the paper:
This paper proposes a tractable model of a dynamic contest where players have private information about the contest's prize. We show that private information helps to encourage players who have fallen behind, leading to an increase in aggregate incentives. We derive the optimal information design for a designer interested in the maximization of aggregate effort. Optimal signals turn out to be private and imperfectly informative.

Chair: Qiang Fu, Co-Chair: Tracy Liu

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
05/19/2021 | Simple security games
Contests & Conflict | 05/19/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Marcin Dziubinski

Marcin Dziubinski will present his paper titled "Simple security games".

Abstract of the paper:
We study a class of simple security games, a type of conflict with multiple battlefields and asymmetric players: a defender and an attacker, where the defender always wins a conflict with the attacker. The model allows for heterogeneous values of battlefields, also across the players, and multiple resources of the players. We characterize Nash equilibria and the value of such games in terms of marginal distributions and propose an algorithm for computing small support mixed strategies for given marginals. The characterization allows us to establish a number of interesting qualitative features of equilibria. This is joint work with Jaideep Roy.

Chair: Kai A. Konrad, Co-Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
05/05/2021 | Sequential Blotto and Gerrymandering
Contests & Conflict | 05/05/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Mattias Polborn

Mattias Polborn will present his paper titled "Sequential Blotto and Gerrymandering".

Abstract of the paper:
Gerrymandering undermines representative democracy by creating many uncompetitive legislative districts, and generating the very real possibility that a party that wins a clear majority of the popular vote does not win a majority of districts. We present a new approach to the determination of electoral districts, taking a design perspective. Specifically, we develop a redistricting game between two parties who both seek an advantage in upcoming elections, and show that we can achieve two desirable properties: First, the overall election outcome corresponds to the popular vote. Second, most districts are competitive.

Chair: Dan Kovenock, Co-Chair: Iryna Topolyan

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
04/21/2021 | Strategic Experimentation and Information Design in Dynamic Contests
Contests & Conflict | 04/21/2021 | 02:00 AM

Speaker: Mohamed Mostagir

Mohamed Mostagir will present his paper titled "Strategic Experimentation and Information Design in Dynamic Contests" (joint work with Yan Chen and Iman Yeckehzaare).

Abstract of the paper:
"Many real-world innovation contests and R&D races have an end goal that might be infeasible. Participants learn about feasibility from their own experimentation and also from observing the progress (or lack thereof) of their competitors. If participants incorrectly learn that the goal is infeasible, they quit the contest and abandon an innovation that could have been achieved. In this paper, we design a novel real-effort experiment to show that a contest designer can avert this undesirable outcome through her choice of information mechanism. By allowing participants to monitor each other's progress, either fully or partially, she significantly increases the chances that the innovation is obtained when it is indeed feasible and when the common prior belief about infeasibility is high. We show that competitor behavior and contest outcomes are sensitive to the timing at which information is released, and we discuss how different information mechanisms affect the designer's payoffs and participants' earnings. Our results provide the first experimental test of the role of information in environments that combine strategic experimentation and dynamic competition, and offer concrete guidelines for how practitioners and applied researchers should select a contest's information mechanism in order to maximize the chances of innovation."

Chair: Tracy Liu, Co-Chair: Qiang Fu

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
04/07/2021 | The Impact of Exposure to Political Violence on Risk and Ambiguity Attitudes
Contests & Conflict | 04/07/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Arzu Kibris

Arzu Kibris will present her paper titled "The Impact of Exposure to Political Violence on Risk and Ambiguity Attitudes" (joint work with Neslihan Uler).

Abstract of the paper
We conduct an incentive compatible field experiment with a large representative sample to study how exposure to political violence in a civil conflict context affects risk and ambiguity preferences of individuals. We identify random exposure to violence by relying on a natural experiment in Turkey created by the military institutions and the long running civil conflict in the country. We find that while being exposed to the conflict environment induces individuals to become more risk-seeking, having traumatic direct experiences in that environment creates the opposite effect and renders individuals extremely risk averse. Such individuals also become more averse to ambiguity. Our results indicate that the type and time of exposure should be considered in determining the overall effects.

Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury, Co-Chair: Kai A. Konrad

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
03/24/2021 | Moral Transgression: The Impact of Competition
Contests & Conflict | 03/24/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Petra Nieken

Petra Nieken will present her paper titled "Moral Transgression: The Impact of Competition" (joint work with Simon Dato and Eberhard Feess).

Abstract of the paper:
Corporate Scandals such as the ones at Wells Fargo, Sears, or Enron as well as doping scandals in professional sports suggest that highly competitive environments do not only increase effort but also unethical behavior. In line with this, experimental studies find that subjects in the laboratory cheat more in contests compared to non-strategic settings. But can this be attributed to a behavioral effect of competition, often referred to as a "desire to win"? Or is the reason simply that incentives differ since winning in contests yields a discrete jump in the payoff structure? To disentangle these two effects, we compare a contest to a non-strategic setting without competition. Crucially, the expected financial benefits from behaving unethically and the impacts on other participants are exactly the same in both treatments. This allows us to isolate the pure behavioral impact of competition. We find that unethical behavior is more frequent in contests even when all differences except the "desire to win" are eliminated by design.

Chair: Dan Kovenock, Co-Chair: Iryna Topolyan

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
03/10/2021 | Optimal Bid Caps in Noisy Contests
Contests & Conflict | 03/10/2021 | 03:00 AM

Speaker: Zenan Wu

Zenan Wu will present his paper titled "Optimal Bid Caps in Noisy Contests" (joint work with Qiang Fu and Yuxuan Zhu).

Abstract of the paper
This paper studies optimal bid caps in a multi-player generalized lottery contest, in which a higher bid improves one's winning odds but does not ensure a win. The bid cap is allowed to be either rigid or flexible. The former imposes outright restrictions on players' bids, while the latter specifies a tax rate for every level of bid and generates tax revenue in equilibrium. A designer commits to the bid cap scheme prior to the competition to maximize a weighted sum between players' aggregate bid and the overall tax revenue she collects through the cap. Our analysis characterizes the properties of the optimum and spells out the conditions for the various optimal bid cap schemes. Our results stand in sharp contrast to studies based on two-player all-pay auctions (e.g., Che and Gale, 1998 and 2006; Kaplan and Wettstein, 2006): We show that with a sufficiently noisy winner-selection mechanism, a rigid bid is always suboptimal regardless of the designer's preference, and no cap is optimal when the designer maximizes only the aggregate bid. Based on our analysis, we develop a rationale that bridges noisy contests and all-pay auctions and sheds light on the nature of bid caps in different contexts.

Chair: Tracy Liu, Co-Chair: Qiang Fu

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
02/24/2021 | An Experiment on the Political Economy of Extreme Intergroup Punishment
Contests & Conflict | 02/24/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Catherine C. Eckel

Catherine C. Eckel will present her paper titled "An experiment on the political economy of extreme intergroup punishment" (joint with Enrique Fatas and Malcolm J. Kass).

Abstract of the paper
We analyze the behavioral determinants of extreme punishment in intergroup conflict. Individuals contribute to team production by a tedious real effort task. Teams compete for a prize in asymmetric tournaments. Asymmetries are implemented as differences in the time available to complete the task, and are generated by nature or by the decisions of one group, arbitrarily chosen. Relative to a symmetric baseline condition in which groups have identical time to complete the task, we study two different types of inequality: economic (one group gets more time than the other, chosen by nature) and political (one group determines how much time the other group is given). We allow for a particular form of intergroup punishment. Individuals in the disadvantaged group may attack and punish all individuals in the other group (thereby reducing their earnings by half) at an extreme price: if they decide to punish the other group, the disadvantaged group member must sacrifice all of their individual earnings. Our results strongly support the link between political asymmetries and extreme intergroup punishment. Relative to a control treatment with no asymmetries, economic inequality has no significant effect on the likelihood of intergroup punishment. However, there is a great deal of punishment in the political inequality treatment, where one group can actively oppress the other. Advantaged groups make very limited use of a conciliatory transfer, only marginally reducing punishment from to disadvantaged groups. Interestingly, we find that skilled individuals are more likely to sacrifice themselves to harm the other group.

Chair: Kai A. Konrad, Co-Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
02/10/2021 | Information and Communication Technologies, Protests, and Censorship
Contests & Conflict | 02/10/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Galina Zudenkova

Time: 09.00 am (Los Angeles time), 06.00 pm (Munich/Paris time), 01.00 am 11. February (Beijing time), 04:00 am 11. February (Sydney time)

Galina Zudenkova will present her paper titled "Information and Communication Technologies, Protests, and Censorship" (joint with Maxim Ananyev, Dimitrios Xefteris, and Maria Petrova).

Abstract of the paper
We develop a theory of information flows and political regime change, when citizens use information and communication technologies (ICTs) for both information acquisition and protest coordination. Governments can respond by obfuscation of citizens' signal or by restricting access to ICTs used for coordination. We find that introduction of communication technologies lowers the probability of regime survival, but this effect is weaker in economies that do not use ICTs for production. We also expect less competent governments to use coordination censorship, though this effect is weaker in economies that use ICTs extensively. Some high-frequency empirical evidence is consistent with our predictions.

Chair: Dan Kovenock, Co-Chair: Iryna Topolyan

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
01/27/2021 | Optimal prizes in tournaments under nonseparable preferences
Contests & Conflict | 01/27/2021 | 07:00 AM

Speaker: Mikhail Drugov

Mikhail Drugov will present his paper titled "Optimal prizes in tournaments under nonseparable preferences" (joint with Dmitry Ryvkin).

Abstract of the paper:
We study rank-order tournaments with risk-averse agents whose utility over money and effort (or leisure) may be nonseparable. We characterize the optimal prize schedule when the principal allocates a fixed budget and show how it is determined by the interplay between the properties of noise and the utility function. In particular, the distribution of noise alone determines whether the optimal prize schedule has flat regions where some number of prizes are equal, while the total number of positive prizes depends on both the noise distribution and utility function. For unimodal noise distributions, the optimal number of positive prizes is restricted regardless of utility under mild assumptions. Also, while the common wisdom suggests---and it holds in the separable case---that risk aversion pushes optimal prize allocations in the direction of prize sharing, this is no longer true, in general, when the marginal utility of money depends on effort.

Chair: Tracy Xiao Liu
Co-Chair: Qiang Fu

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
01/13/2021 | Virtual Teams in a Gig Economy
Contests & Conflict | 01/13/2021 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Yan Chen, Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan

Our study examines the effect of virtual teams on worker productivity and retention on an online platform. Hailed as the future of work, the gig economy provides flexible, low-barrier jobs for millions of workers globally. However, a lack of both organization identity and social bonds contributes to the high attrition rate experienced by gig platforms. To test the impact of virtual teams, we use a large-scale natural field experiment with 27,790 drivers on a global ride-sharing platform to organize drivers into teams that are randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions. Treated drivers receive either their team or individual ranking, whereas those in the control condition receive individual performance information without social comparison. We find that treated drivers are significantly more productive than those in the control condition. We further find that drivers in the team leaderboard treatment continue to work longer hours on the platform three months after the end of the experiment. Lastly, we find that those identified as laggards within a virtual team benefit the most from a team contest.

Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury, Co-Chair: Kai A. Konrad

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
12/16/2020 | Competency and Policy in Electoral Contests
Contests & Conflict | 12/16/2020 | 06:00 AM

Speaker: Philipp Denter

Philipp Denter will present his paper titled "Competency and Policy in Electoral Contests".

Abstract of the paper:
I study a model of electoral competition where two parties, that care about both the spoils of office and policy, compete for voters' support by first announcing policy platforms and by then spending costly effort in a campaign contest. Parties are characterized by their exogenous valence/competence and by the policy platforms they adopt. Voters value valence and policy via a CES utility function. I generally characterize the electoral equilibrium. When the costs of campaigning are weakly concave, both parties choose the median voter's ideal policy in the electoral equilibrium, independent of potential valence differences.

When costs are convex, a party with a sufficient valence advantage departs from the electoral center and chooses a more partisan policy platform, while the disadvantaged party remains at the center.

Surprisingly, the advantaged party's equilibrium policy choice, and hence also policy polarization, may be non-monotonic in the size of the valence advantage, if valence and policy are sufficiently complementary.

I further discuss implications of campaign finance reform as well as of politicians' average competence levels in a society for policy choices and polarization.

Chair: Lionel Page, Co-Chair: Qiang Fu and Tracy Liu

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
12/02/2020 | Momentum and Heterogeneity in Contests
Contests & Conflict | 12/02/2020 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Stefano Barbieri, Tulane University

Stefano Barbieri will present his paper (joint work with Marco Serena - Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance) titled "Momentum and Heterogeneity in Contests".

Abstract of the paper:
In sequential contests between ex-ante symmetric players, the outcome of early battles creates an asymmetry in players' incentives to expend resources, which undermines future expenditures. This dynamic force is absent in simultaneous contests, and consequently expenditures in sequential contests are smaller than in simultaneous ones. But if players are not ex-ante symmetric, it is a priori not clear what happens to players' incentives to expend resources in sequential contests. We find that the answer depends on the nature of the heterogeneity. If a player is stronger in every battle, then expenditures in sequential contests are still smaller than in simultaneous ones. However, if players' advantages are allowed to vary and alternate across battles, then a reversal of the result obtains for sufficiently strong asymmetry, and expenditures in sequential contests are greater than in simultaneous ones.

Chair: Dan Kovenock, Co-Chair: Iryna Topolyan

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
11/18/2020 | Ethnic Conflicts and the Informational Dividend of Democracy
Contests & Conflict | 11/18/2020 | 06:00 PM

Speaker: Dominic Rohner, University of Lausanne and CEPR

Dominic Rohner will present his paper (joint work with Jérémy Laurent-Lucchetti and Mathias Thoenig) titled "Ethnic Conflicts and the Informational Dividend of Democracy".

Abstract of the paper:
Prevailing theories of democracy focus on class conflict. In contrast, we study democratic transition when ethnic tensions are more salient than the poor/rich divide, building a model where (i) ethnic groups negotiate about allocating the economic surplus and (ii) military and political mobilizations rest on unobserved ethnic identity. Free and fair elections elicit information and restore inter-ethnic bargaining efficiency. Autocrats can rationally choose democratic transition, even if they risk losing power, as elections reduce the opposition’s informational rent. The predictions of our framework are consistent with novel country-level and ethnic group-level panel correlational evidence on democratization in the post-decolonization period.

Chair: Kai A. Konrad, Co-Chair: Subhasish Chowdhury

Contact Person

Event Team

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Marstallplatz 1
80539 Munich

Phone: +49-89-24246-5255
Fax: +49-89-24246-5299

Mail: contests@tax.mpg.de
Download